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Drugs and alcohol found at 'unsafe prison' in Lancashire. Almost half of prisoners said it was easy to get drugs

HMP Garth 'one of the most unsafe' inspectors have seen Credit: ITV Granada

A report's revealed drugs worth #40,000 were found at a "very unsafe" prison. 350 litres of illicitly-brewed alcohol known as "hooch" was also discovered at HMP Garth over Christmas.

There are 800 adult males at the training prison in Lancashire..

A report on the jail from HM Inspectorate of Prisons said the drug strategy committee at Garth was "much improved".

But it also says: "Despite a coordinated effort to reduce drug supply and demand, very high levels of finds, positive random mandatory drug testing rates and our survey all pointed to a high level of availability of illicit drugs, including new psychoactive substances, diverted medication and illicitly brewed alcohol.

"Almost half the population said that it was easy to get drugs at the prison, and approximately one in five said that they had developed a drug problem while there - both of which were higher than at the time of the previous inspection."

The report described NPS - previously known as legal highs - as "particularly problematic", saying they were linked to medical emergencies and prisoner debt and violence.

The drugs - which mimic the effects of illegal substances including cannabis - have been identified as a major factor behind the deterioration in safety seen across prisons in England and Wales.

Ministers have unveiled a wide-ranging package of measures to reform jails including the introduction of mandatory drugs testing.

HMIP, which visited Garth in January, warned that levels of violence at the jail had increased "substantially" with many incidents linked to drugs, gangs and debt.

Assaults on staff had also risen, while dozens of prisoners were held separately because of fears for their safety.

The watchdog did however find the prison had made real progress in work to rehabilitate prisoners.

This was an unusual inspection of contrasting and conflicting outcomes.

"The progress in rehabilitative work was real and speaks to the potential this establishment has.

"The prison was, however, one of the most unsafe we have been to in recent times. Violence and drugs dominated the prisoner experience."

– Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke

The deterioration in safety is a serious concern.

An experienced senior management team will work alongside a new governor to help drive progress over the coming months.

"This will be supported by additional staffing and resources and an improvement plan is already in place to address the issues raised.

– Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison & Probation Service

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Stepping stone to help prisoners back into community

Prisoners can prepare for life on the outside Credit: ITV Granada Reports

A women's prison in Cheshire opens a new halfway-house today which will which will act as a stepping stone back into the community for prisoners nearing release.

It's the first of its kind in the country and is just outside the prison gates. It's hoped it will give low risk prisoners the opportunity to find work, re-establish family ties, reintegrate into the community and ensure housing needs are met before their release.

Until today, a female offender nearing release would need to move to one of only two women’s open prisons, often a long distance away from their homes, families and local community.

HMP Styal is the first prison to launch its open accommodation, with a house just beyond the prison gate which will house up to 25 offenders.

Chance for prisoners to prepare for release Credit: ITV Granada Reports

“The launch of the open accommodation at Styal is the first step of a vital reform we are making to the women’s prison estate –helping female offenders prepare for their release by testing them in open conditions, and at the same time keeping them as close to home as possible.

“This will mean that before leaving custody, they can already start to make the local links they need on their release – such as finding job opportunities, housing, or other local services.

“These are essential factors to helping offenders turn away from crime and change their lives for good.”

– Justice Minister Simon Hughes

Convicted murderer arrested in Oldham after going on the run

Arnold Pickering Credit: Merseyside Police/PA Wire

A convicted murderer who stabbed a blind man to death has been arrested in Oldham after going on the run from prison.

Arnold Pickering was arrested for being unlawfully at large at an address in Oldham, police said.

The 44-year-old, who was jailed for life in 1991 for killing a man he wrongly thought to be a paedophile, failed to return to HMP Kennet in Merseyside after leaving the Category C jail on day release on Saturday.

Merseyside Police said he was arrested by officers from Greater Manchester Police and is now in custody.

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